12 educators from all three of our buildings at Aspen School District (ASD) travelled to Denver at the end of June to attend the annual ISTE conference (International Society for Technology in Education). What is the ISTE conference? It's a massive gathering of educators, administrators, and edtech companies coming together for the purpose of learning from one another how educational technology can be used to help teachers, students, administrators and schools be successful in accomplishing meaningful student learning. Held at the Colorado Convention Center, it is truly a sight to behold. This year’s conference had over 14,000 attendees! Walking through the convention center halls with so many inspired and motivated professionals was truly amazing!
So what does does an ISTE conference look like? It fills the halls of the CCC with teachers, specialists, administrators, etc… buzzing from room to room and booth to booth, trying to find the right presentation for their needs and interests in educational technology. Presentations are held in many different formats: traditional lectures, interactive playgrounds, quick poster presentations, research paper presentations, interactive discussions, panel discussions, workshops, and a massive expo hall space in which companies from around the country and world showcase their latest and best in education. The vast variety of content makes finding what’s interesting and right for you and your school only a few steps away. Topics this year included coding, robotics, blended and distance learning, virtual reality, effective assessment, BYOD (Bring your Own Device), Personalized Professional Development, ISTE standards for teachers, admins, and students, and much much more!
Being my second time attending an ISTE conference I could really appreciate everything that was going on and how beneficial bringing educators to a conference like this can be. You are instantly put in a place to network with like-minded educators and grow your PLN (Professional Learning Network) so that long after the conference you are still developing great ideas and new concepts. Being in a new role as a Technology Integration Specialist I was amazed to see how prevalent my new position has become across the country and excited to connect and learn from other’s in my field doing so many great things for their staff and students. Having the ASD teachers who attended come up and express their excitement and motivation during and after the conference was also inspiring. They were able to see how many in their same position could leverage all the tools available to create successful and exciting learning environments. We all left the conference with a renewed, positive outlook on our involvement in education and how we can take our profession and students to the next level.
Events like this are so important for teachers, administrators, specialists, and all educators to attend to recharge their outlook on the profession and continue to develop their skills to match an evolving field. It feels good to be part of a school district that values educational technology and encourages teachers to learn and grow in this incredible field.
My biggest take-aways:
1. Student devices are here to stay! - With so many newly evolving technology practices within education, students having an easily accessible device is crucial to taking advantage of the new methods capable in a digital world. So many teachers are utilizing the various cloud-based platforms and LMS (Google Classroom, Microsoft Classroom, ClassFlow, Canvas, Blackboard, etc...) systems to make classrooms paperless and more accessible. Many factors play into what device is ideal for your student population and though my district has moved forward with Chromebooks, I can see the advantages of tablet devices and feel like a mix of the two helps address all the needs. BYOD (Bring your own device) policies and programs still haven't found the sweet spot. But just like different learning styles, cause us to change our teaching methods, if a student can succeed with one device over another and has the ability to bring it and take ownership of it, why not let them choose? It seems the most important item is access to some type of device to enable the teacher and student to work together in this new medium of education.
2. Edtech Coaches/Tech Coaches/Tech Integrators/etc... are a growing part of most schools and districts. - It was so refreshing to see such a large group of educators in my same field, working towards the same goals. We have many different names, but it became clear to me that the position of Edtech Coach/Integrator is here to stay. Now that we are here to stay, we can start to connect and share our hurdles and successes. Having the ISTE standards for Coaches is a great reference that can help put us all on the same page working to help our teachers, students, and administrators achieve the same goals. I can't wait to continue to grow in this field and work with other amazing educators passionate about how technology can change education for the better!
4. Technology does not replace great teachers and good teaching! - With everything that continues to help make teaching better, one very simple fact seems to stand the test of time: great teachers are what make students successful! The various tools and strategies can only amplify what is already there. The potential for great teachers to become even better and reach more students with the developments in edtech is staggering. The technology available is finally starting to reach a point that allows educators to think well beyond what was once possible and prepare students for a world and job market that is always on the cutting edge. So all the bells and whistles are great, but it's still the teacher behind the technology that makes it go!
Comment below any of your highlights or insights from ISTE 2016!
Tech Integration Specialist at the Aspen School District. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former 4th grade teacher and Spartan for life! Go Green!